That is, not in exchange for Niese: a 28-year-old southpaw starting pitcher, who owns a career 3.90 ERA (versus a 3.68 xFIP) and 2.67 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.
Even though the left-handed pitcher’s 4.43 ERA (versus a 3.81 xFIP) to-date isn’t exactly dominant, Ramirez is batting just .213 with a park-adjusted 72 wRC+. Oh, and Ramirez is almost 37, and plans on retiring after the season.
This should be pretty embarrassing for the Mets’ front office.
So if there’s a consensus amongst general managers that Jon Niese’s value is so low, why hasn’t Sandy Alderson received the memo?
Niese has dealt with a lot of serious, but non-surgical injuries. In fact, since 2009, Niese has missed 239 days of action. The more troubling fact to prospective suitors, however, has been the amount of time he’s missed due to his throwing shoulder.
Originally diagnosed as “bursitis” in May 2013, a month later, Niese fell prey to a partially torn left shoulder. From 2013 to 2014, the southpaw missed a total of 95 games – on and off — due to this same injury.
The result? A drop of almost 1.7 miles-per-hour off his average fastball’s speed over the span.
Despite being the toast of town during the 2012 Winter Meetings per NY Daily News’ Andy Martino, Niese’s trade value has plummeted dramatically with each passing offseason. That’s right: teams actually favored Niese in the very meeting that sent R.A. Dickey to the Toronto Blue Jays for Noah Syndergaard and
Yet, now thanks to Niese’s significantly slower fastball, perennial shoulder discomfort that has forced him to alter his motion, and perhaps even his hot temper, teams increasingly view the former commodity as a ticking time bomb earning too much money (he is guaranteed $10 million in 2016, including buyouts in 2017 and 2018).
And while it’s hard to fault teams for being wary of Niese’s future as a dependable starter, it’s far more reasonable to criticize the man who seems to overvalue him at each opportunity to unload him.
It’s conceivable that Niese could have landed the Mets a one-to-two-win hitter this past offseason, having been just a few months removed from a 187.2-inning, 3.40 ERA season. Swapping Niese for one of Andre Ethier, Josh Reddick, Michael Saunders, or Travis Snider seemed within reason in November.
Such a move – though hardly franchise-altering — would have at least prevented the Mets from overpaying Michael Cuddyer, thus salvaging their first-round pick. After all, Brady Aiken would have looked nice in orange and blue.
But Alderson continued to hold out – and still has. As a result, the Mets are stuck with Niese, a pitcher no one — even the Brewers, who own the 7th worst rotation fWAR in baseball — wants.
If anything, the quickly escalating Niese fiasco has exposed Alderson, now in his fifth season as GM, as anything but the “as advertised” sagely tactician. With each day Niese remains a Met, Alderson looks more the part of the greedy day trader; adjusting his sell “limit” on a penny stock higher and higher, instead of being satiated with modest profits.
It’s likely the Jon Niese-era is drawing to a close. With Steven Matz waiting in the wings at Triple-A, the Mets cannot continue to trot out a fifth starter-caliber pitcher when there’s a potential ace in their presence. Alderson will soon be forced to decide what is more important: upholding his ego as a skilled trade bully or putting the Mets in the best position to win games.
Statistics (games through June 10, 2015) and salaries sourced from FanGraphs and Cot’s, respectively.